Get to know ... Quentin Hardy, head of editorial at Google Cloud
NEW CANAAN — Quentin Hardy may be 60, but as a lifelong journalist he still has the curiosity and spirit of a teenager.
His Twitter account, which boasts 35,100 followers, has the Pizza Hut sign as his profile picture (“I admire their firm grasp of the obvious”) and his LinkedIn profile displays Thing 1 and Thing 2, the blue-haired Dr. Seuss creations.
“You never feel your age,” Hardy said in a phone interview. “The world just gets old around you. You’re always kind of 15, hoping to figure something out soon.”
That same joie de vivre has taken the New York City-born, New Canaan-raised Hardy to some of the world’s most renowned publications, like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and The New York Times. In a way, it’s part of his following his family’s calling, one that extends back three generations: One of his grandfathers was an Associated Press congressional correspondent, and his father, Jerome Hardy, was the publisher of Life magazine and president of the Dreyfus Corp.
On the other hand, he loves the thrill of it.
As a technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal in the late 1990s, Hardy traveled and wrote extensively on various topics. Some of which were, quite literally, explosive.
“One day I flew to Spokane, Wash., and I drove out to Idaho from there to watch a man seal up an abandoned mine,” Hardy said, describing it as one of the best days of his life. “So I watched this guy put a charge on top of three cases of dynamite and then blow it up from a distance — it was a blunderbuss.”
Fourteen hours after this episode, Hardy was in Rome to cover a meeting of the International Space Satellite Consortium.
“I had the best job in America,” Hardy said. “(The newspaper industry) had so much money. Even into the 2000s, news and magazines had twice the profit margin. They were gold mines.”
With the increasing role of platforms like Google (where Hardy is head of editorial at Google Cloud) and Facebook in the online advertising business, the news industry took a massive hit, an issue that many news companies are still trying to solve.
Having covered technology for more than 20 years, Hardy doesn’t hide his excitement about the upcoming breaks in technology.
“I think we’re seeing the start of a truly deep reconfiguration of human civilization and I think, in ways, that will be fantastic. There is no point on the planet where you’re not a short walk away from a nearly infinite amount of data. Who in history wouldn’t kill to have this? Who wouldn’t yearn to have capabilities we take for granted?”
He joked he can put someone on hold over the phone, look up the weather in Cairo and be back to the call in 20 seconds — 30 seconds would be a stretch.
That excitement, however, doesn’t come without its caveat. At a TEDx talk he gave a year ago in San Francisco, Hardy told a note-scribbling audience that they should have fear — not the panicky kind, he said, but a “good fear.”
“We need to build our new world with the courage that comes with a special kind of fear,” he said. Citing examples like the printing press and the French Revolution, Hardy argues we are yet at another point of changing human consciousness.
“The fear I need can be transformative,” Hardy said. “Rather than shrink in fear and hope nothing changes, we need to embrace fear. Fear is a natural response that keeps us sharp and identifies to us what really matters and prepares us for what’s ahead.”
Though there are many big things that lie ahead, the 1975 New Canaan High School graduate remembers growing up in town during what he describes as an intense time.
“It was a wealthy suburb, but still challenging in a lot of ways. There were Vietnam protests and candlelight vigils, there was Watergate and Nixon and the oil embargo. You were witnessing a time of change in America,” said Hardy, who has three brothers and one sister.
With the current state of politics, Hardy remembers a time when people were more open to discussion. His parents had good relations with the parents of Ann Coulter, a conservative firebrand and a 1980 NCHS graduate.
“We still had this ‘we’re in this together’ thing,” Hardy said. “You have to very consciously seek Americans that aren’t like you.”
Though Hardy now works for a titan in the technology industry, he has volunteered at the St. Quentin prison in California for the past two years. His role? An adviser for the inmates who write for the St. Quentin News, America’s largest prison newspaper.